Back in the last century, I met a very bright woman in Santa Cruz who was a study in contrasts -- Goth on the outside, crunchy on the inside. She wore black from head to toe every day and worked for an organic farming organization. But the thing I remember most about her was that she wouldn't wear silk because the process hurt the silkworms.
This was before inexpensive silk began to be so readily available here. Silk was still a luxury, and it was the first time I had heard anybody reject silk. Now, my friend's attitude seems less fringe and more aware. We tend to think of all natural fibers as environmentally friendly, but as with most things, there are layers upon layers of complexity. With virtually every natural fiber, there are social and environmental concerns that demand change. Likewise, some synthetic fibers can be designed in ways that do not pollute and make the best use of our resources and technologies. In between there's a lot of gray area.
I'm planning some silk bed throws that sent me on long visits to Aurora Silk, natural dye expert/artist Cheryl Kolander's site for her fabrics, yarns and threads (and check out these amazing print blocks -- Cheryl designs these -- they are beautiful and loaded with spiritual significance). Aurora Silk is a source for Ahimsa and Peace silks, made without harm to the silkworms. You can read more about them on the site. On Cheryl's advice, for my project, I ordered the 3-ply reeled silk cord:
"This cord is incredibly strong and durable. The sheen of the reeled thread is fractured by the tight twist of the ply, resulting in a light play of sparkles."
Shibori artist and natural dyer Karren K. Brito has written "Is Silk Green?" in the newest Surface Design Association Newsletter. Her greater concern (and I agree) is the use of child labor and inhumane conditions in the silk industry.
I am still buying silk, but learning more every day about the greater costs to much of the fabric we buy. Yet I do believe that every person who engages in the creative act of making things with fiber or fabric in a conscious way is contributing to a better world. Changing the structure and dynamics of our resource base is a process that will take time, but knowledge is always the seed.
So. On to my project. I am still in gift-making mode, frog caddies and cosmetic bags, and haven't yet begun any art or the Take It Further challenge project for the month. But these silk throws are quite special and I've been wanting to try one for a long time; now I'm making one for Angela's wedding gift and one for my dear friend and karmic sister Lisa. I was inspired by the gorgeous throws at Hyena Productions that sell for many hundreds of dollars. They are silk velvet on one side, silk dupioni or taffeta on the other, lined with flannel (not batting, so I don't think quilting is necessary) and have a beaded fringe or other exotic trim on the borders. I was further inspired by the vintage Moroccan wedding quilts on MyMarrakesh, with their flat silver sequins, and Yoshiko Jinzenji's pillows fringed with silk cord and pearls in her Quilt Artistry book. So I'm combining all these influences into what I hope will be something both modern and luxurious, with a sense of enchantment. As soon as my orders all arrive I'll post a photo of the fabrics.